Starbucks’ Slight Controversy
Starbucks continues to be a lightning rod for controversy. This one isn’t too much of a hullabaloo, but the national media jumped on it immediately. The latest is not about which album is chose to carry, rather what album it didn’t carry. In the article
“Not Their Cup of Tea”
Newsweek’s Johnnie L. Roberts reported that Starbucks passed on selling Bruce Springsteen’s
Devils & Dust
album because of the content in the song “Reno.” The song is a graphic portrayal of a sexual encounter with a hooker.
“People familiar with the Springsteen situation say they doubt it will raise any general alarm within the music industry about censorship. Still, it remains to be seen whether the caffeine-beverage giant’s move becomes another stimulant for First Amendment advocates and others concerned about free-speech rights.”
Roberts makes reference to the censorship charges that are often thrown at Wal-Mart over its policies in stocking music titles. Starbucks, though, probably won’t hear the same criticism because it doesn’t carry many titles, and unlike Wal-Mart it’s not the only music retailer in some areas. Wal-Mart’s reputation as a Main Street store killer and the bad publicity over its low wages are two problems Starbucks doesn’t have. It’s been derided for other things, such as paying too little to third world coffee bean growers, but it’s been very good at
quelling the bad publicity.
It probably won’t get a mention in Newsweek, but another title Starbucks won’t carry is by a political activist that has staged protests inside its stores.
Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping
has ten songs that capture the faux reverend and his choir’s denouncements of American consumerism and corporate behemoths such as Starbucks. One track is even called “Remove Starbucks and Disney.” The album was released last month by Tomato Records.
The Power of MySpace
Further evidence that the social networks website MySpace is changing how people connect: A few of today’s new releases—or parts of them—have been available on the bands’ MySpace pages. To much media attention, Weezer’s
was up for the week leading to its release date at
its page. (The album was heard only as one long stream—no skipping or fast forwarding.) Four songs by Team Sleep, a side project of The Deftones’ Chino Moreno, have been on
the band’s MySpace page. The first of the four has been heard over 137,000 times. (It plays as soon as you view the page, and that why the song’s streams are almost 90,000 more than the second-most listened-to song.)
Fannypack’s MySpace page
has three songs for their new album,
See You Next Tuesday
. The Unseen have a few songs for their album
State of Discontent
at their MySpace page.
The bands are surely happy to have a way to get information (bio, tour dates, etc) out to their fans. Record labels are surely wondering how this new means of reaching fans will impact sales. That has yet to be seen. For a band like Weezer, the fact that its been in the news—and was on the cover of Rolling Stone—ahead of street date is more important that a MySpace album preview. For a band like Team Sleep, which sounds markedly different than the Deftones, MySpace allows listeners to become familiar with the band. Unsigned bands definitely have room to work with MySpace—if they can just get people to their pages.
Cellular Turf Wars
If some think $0.99 is too much for a music download, wait until they try to download a song from their wireless carrier.
MacNewsWorld previewed the upcoming turf war between carriers and Motorola and iTunes. The latter two will see resistance from carriers when Motorola’s iTunes handset hits stores. That handset would allow users to transfer songs from computers to handsets. Carriers want to develop their own stores and have subscribers download over the air. Airtime will cost money, as will the music. Ripping songs from CDs and transferring the songs to a handset bypasses those money-making routes.
Digital Music News editor Paul Resnikoff
discusses the turf wars today. Labels aren’t doing cartwheels over iTunes, he says, because the average iPod owner has downloaded only a handful of songs from iTunes. They aren’t going to embrace an iTunes-capable cell phone that allows more file-sharing and CD ripping, and carriers won’t embrace the iTunes model because they’re completely left out of the supply chain. “Further rubbing the wound is a stalemate negotiation over price, with labels unable to exert any control over the 99-cent sweet spot, while exerting even less control over a dizzying interoperability mess,” he wrote.
Glenn works in the music industry in New York City. He writes about the industry and music in general at his blog,